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May 17, 2010

Victories for Animals as State Legislatures Adjourn

HSUS works to pass animal protection laws nationwide

  • The HSUS works around the country to support animal welfare legislation, fight animal cruelty in all forms, and engage citizens to promote the protection of animals. iStock.com

As some state legislatures across the country adjourn, we look at all we've accomplished so far this year for animals.

Here are some highlights of major animal protection legislation that was enacted at the state level.

Click on one of the states below for details about state legislation:

 Alaska  Louisiana
 Arizona  Maryland
 Florida  Minnesota
 Georgia  Missouri
 Hawaii  Nebraska
 Illinois  Utah
 Indiana  West Virginia
 Iowa  Wisconsin

 

Alaska

 

The Alaska Legislature adjourned in April after passing major anti-cruelty legislation. Lawmakers passed H.B. 6, which makes egregious acts of animal cruelty a felony on the first offense and prohibits the sexual abuse of an animal. This was the culmination of a multi-year effort to strengthen Alaska's animal cruelty laws. Championed by Rep. Bob Lynn (R-31), Rep. Carl Gatto (R-13) and Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-J), this legislation brings Alaska’s animal cruelty laws in line with most other states in the country. Prior to the passage of this law, Alaska’s cruelty laws were some of the weakest in the country -- and Alaska was the only state that required two prior convictions before felony level penalties applied. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Alaska ranked a low 35th, but passage of H.B. 6 may bump Alaska up in our 2010 ranking. Stay tuned!

Arizona

 

Thanks to the support of animal advocates like you, a bill to include pets in domestic violence protection orders passed the Arizona Legislature this year. Another bill passed that reduces the time for veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty. Additionally, one piece of legislation that would have weakened the citizen initiative process was defeated. Unfortunately, another measure that would take away voting rights on wildlife issues will be on the ballot in November, and we encourage Arizona voters to oppose it. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Arizona ranked 17th.

Florida

 

Badly needed legislation to restrict the dangerous trade in large snakes passed the Florida Legislature this year. Also, in response to incidents of horses being stolen and butchered for human consumption in Florida, the legislature passed a bill to make it a felony to kill, maim or mutilate a horse — and prohibit the transport, sale, distribution or possession of horse meat that is not acquired from a "licensed slaughterhouse." Since no slaughterhouses in Florida are licensed to process horses, this amounts to an outright prohibition on the slaughter of horses for human consumption. And, fortunately, legislation that would allow for restrictions based on the breed of dog was defeated. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Florida ranked 14th.

Georgia

 

Legislation to allow for pet trusts passed the Georgia Legislature this session. Another victory includes passage of legislation that will ban the use of gas chambers as a method of euthanasia. Additionally, a bill that requires animal shelters to check animals for a microchip also passed the legislature. And, fortunately, a bill that would have allowed for killing animals in canned hunts did not pass. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Georgia ranked 26th.

Hawaii

 

Hawaii is poised to become a leader in shark and ocean conservation with the passage of landmark legislation to prohibit the sale and possession of sharks and shark fins. Once signed into law, S.B. 2169, championed by Sen. Clayton Hee (D-23), will be the first state law in the country aimed at the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning. Shark fins, used primarily for shark fin soup, are often obtained from live sharks — with the animal then tossed back into the ocean to suffer a slow death. Lawmakers also passed H.B. 2725 to require humane housing standards for pets, the first step in preventing puppy mills and mass breeding operations. The bill also requires that pets receive veterinary care to prevent suffering. We also defeated two outrageous resolutions attempting to recognize illegal cockfighting as a "cultural activity." In the end, it was a great session for Hawaii's animals. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Hawaii ranked near the bottom at 43rd. Hopefully this successful legislative session will herald in a new era of strong laws to protect Hawaii's animals.

Illinois

 

It was a fantastic year for animals in the Illinois legislature, as lawmakers passed four major animal protection bills. Illinois joined more than 20 other states in banning the private possession of primates as pets, recognizing that monkeys and other primates are wild animals that belong in the wild. Rep. Daniel Burke (D, 23) introduced H.B. 4801 after a recent attack of a Connecticut woman by a pet chimpanzee that left the woman severely injured and the chimpanzee dead. Lawmakers also passed H.B. 4722, introduced by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D, 12), to protect pets and wildlife by requiring the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze—a sweet but deadly substance that kills thousands of animals each year. The enactment of H.B. 5772, introduced by Rep. Susana Mendoza (D, 1), will require that pet shops disclose information about the origin of the dogs and cats they sell, ensuring that Illinois consumers have important information they need to make responsible purchasing decisions. And lastly, Illinois lawmakers also passed legislation, H.B. 5790, to increase the penalty for bringing children to dogfights or participating in dogfighting near schools, parks or day cares. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Illinois ranked 6th—and these new laws illustrate its strong commitment to animal protection.

Indiana

 

Last year, Indiana passed legislation to improve the treatment of dogs at large-scale puppy mills. This year, Rep. Linda Lawson (D-1) introduced a bill to further address the problem of puppy mills. H.B. 1258 would have required pet stores to provide critical information to consumers about the origin of the dogs they sell. Most puppies sold at pet stores come from puppy mills, and many pet stores do not disclose the true origins of their puppies — often using deceptive sales pitches about the breeders they use. This legislation would have ensured that consumers have information they need before purchasing a puppy at a pet store. It also included provisions to help crack down on animal fighting. Unfortunately, although this measure passed the Indiana House, the Senate failed to take it up before the Legislature adjourned. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Indiana ranked 31st.

Iowa

 

The Iowa Legislature passed major legislation to broaden state oversight of puppy mills. H.F. 2280, sponsored by Rep. Jim Lykam (D-85) and Sen. Matt McCoy (D-31), gives state officials authority to inspect federally licensed puppy mills. Before this bill's passage, Iowa was one of only two states (among the states that allow kennel inspections) where state inspectors were not able to inspect federally licensed facilities that sell puppies wholesale to pet stores. Iowa is the nation's third largest puppy mill state, and this much-needed upgrade to the law will help combat puppy mill abuses. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Iowa ranked 20th.

Louisiana

 

The Louisiana Legislature passed bills prohibiting spectators at cockfights, inhumane tethering of dogs, and the use of gas chambers for euthanasia. Additionally, Louisiana also increased kennel license fees, which will allow parishes to better regulate puppy mills, and passed bills to promote humane methods of slaughter and to require licenses for dealers of certain large snakes. There's more work to do, particularly as the tragic BP oil spill continues to take its toll on wildlife throughout the Gulf. In these difficult days, Louisiana can be proud of these legislative successes.

Maryland

 

It was a tough legislative session for animals in Maryland, but not all was lost. The Legislature considered several important animal protection measures, including legislation on dangerous dogs, tethering, pet stores, trapping and poaching. The Senate passed S.B. 21 to strengthen penalties for animal fighting, but the bill failed to pass the House before the Legislature adjourned. One positive note was the defeat of H.B. 1518, which would have allowed hunting on Sundays in most of the state. Sunday hunting has historically been prohibited in Maryland, but legislators have slowly chipped away at this prohibition. Defeating H.B. 1518 is a major victory in the fight to retain these protections. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Maryland ranked 17th.

Minnesota

 

Animals won in Minnesota after passage of two important animal protection bills. After a two year campaign, lawmakers passed S.F. 2990, prohibiting the possession of drugs and implements used in animal fighting. Lawmakers also passed S.F. 2437, providing victims of domestic violence relief from abusers who threaten to harm their pets. Animal advocates also stopped the passage of a resolution, S.F. 133, which would have urged Congress to oppose federal legislation to stop the slaughter of American horses for human consumption.

Missouri

 

Thanks to the efforts of animal advocates, legislation was defeated that would have interfered with Missouri citizens' right to petition the government on abusive practices, such as the puppy mill ballot initiative now circulating. The bill would have also promoted horse slaughter in the state. Additionally, legislation to require a permit for large carnivores passed. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Missouri ranked 43rd.

Nebraska

 

Lawmakers passed L.B. 252, introduced by Sen. Abbie Cornett, which prohibits the possession of animal fighting paraphernalia. The Legislature also passed a measure establishing procedures for seizing animals in cases of cruelty. Another bill, L.B. 712, requires owners to post a bond to cover the costs of care in certain circumstances. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Nebraska ranked 24th.

Utah

 

In Utah, important legislation passed to prevent antifreeze poisoning of pets and other animals. S.B. 218 requires the addition of a bittering agent to the sweet tasting liquid to prevent animal poisonings. With passage of S.B. 218, sponsored by Senate President Michael Waddoups (R-6), Utah became the 11th state to pass antifreeze safety legislation. The Legislature also passed an important bill removing the requirement that shelters turn over animals to research facilities. Before enactment of H.B. 107, introduced by Rep. Jennifer Seelig (D-23), Utah was one of only four states where shelters were actually required to supply research facilities with animals. In addition to these important bills, lawmakers also passed H.B. 68 to strengthen penalties for poaching. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Utah ranked near the bottom at 42nd — but passage of these measures will likely give Utah a bump in our 2010 ranking.

West Virginia

 

It was a mixed bag for animals in West Virginia this year. Lawmakers considered several animal protection measures, such as a bill to crack down on cockfighting and puppy mills. S.B. 380, introduced by Sen. Jeffrey Kessler (D-2), would have made cockfighting a felony and would have brought West Virginia’s laws in line with those in 39 other states across the country. West Virginia’s weak cockfighting laws currently make it a magnet for this illegal activity. While S.B. 380 passed the Senate, it failed to pass the House before the session adjourned. The Legislature also considered H.B. 4333, sponsored by Rep. Virginia Mahan (D-27), to require licensing and inspection of puppy mills and to put in place basic humane standards. Although this legislation also failed to pass, lawmakers did enact legislation, S.B. 490, to allow courts to include protections for animals in domestic violence protective orders. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, West Virginia ranked near the bottom at 35th, in part because of its weak animal fighting laws.

Wisconsin

 

The Wisconsin Legislature wrapped up with one major victory for animals, and significant progress on two other measures. Lawmakers passed A.B. 842/S.B. 663, sponsored by Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-20), to require the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze and engine coolant, to prevent poisonings to animals and children by the sweet-tasting liquid. With the Governor’s signature, Wisconsin will become the 12th state to enact an antifreeze safety law. The Legislature also considered A.B. 747/S.B. 555 to increase penalties for animal cruelty and allow courts to include protections for animals in domestic violence protective orders, and A.B. 793/S.B. 580 to clarify the procedure for seizing animals in cruelty cases. Both of these measures passed the Assembly but, unfortunately, failed to pass the Senate before it adjourned. In our recent ranking of state animal protection laws, Wisconsin ranked 28th, but will receive a bump in our 2010 ranking due to passage of the antifreeze safety law.

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